Students continue activism with ‘dead-in’ display in DUC

| Senior News Editor

Dressed in black shirts, students fell to the floor, simulating the dead bodies of people of color shot by police officers as tour groups and students eating lunch in Tisch Commons looked on.

The demonstration, or “dead-in,” lasted about five minutes and took place just after noon on Monday. Demonstrators also read the names of people of color killed by police, including Mike Brown and Vonderrit Myers, both black teenagers recently shot by police officers in the St. Louis area.

Two students lie on the ground in Tisch Commons as part of Monday’s “dead-in” demonstration. The event came as a follow-up to this past weekend’s Ferguson October rallies and protests in St. Louis.Claire Komyati | Student Life

Two students lie on the ground in Tisch Commons as part of Monday’s “dead-in” demonstration. The event came as a follow-up to this past weekend’s Ferguson October rallies and protests in St. Louis.

The dead-in was organized by members of St. Louis Students in Solidarity, a group of students from local universities calling for justice for people of color affected by racial profiling and police brutality. The demonstration came after a “Weekend of Resistance” filled with acts of civil disobedience calling for justice for Brown’s death, including a march through and rally in downtown St. Louis. The rally culminated late Sunday night with a sit-in on the Saint Louis University campus.

Washington University students participating in the dead-in said that they hoped to remind others of Brown’s death, which happened over two months ago, and spark conversation among students about the surrounding issues.

“Time after time, we’ve heard from all the organizers on the ground and everybody that the most important work for us to do is in our communities,” senior Jonathan Karp, one of the demonstrators, said. “Obviously, there’s a lot of work to do here at Wash. U.”

The goal of the action was to bring observers face to face with the issues faced by people of color, senior and dead-in participant Rachel Hoffman said.

“Part of what’s powerful about this particular action is, as opposed to reading an article, we’re hopefully able to insert ourselves into the lives of people who might not be paying attention to this anymore or at all,” Hoffman said.

A student speaks into a megaphone at Tisch Commons on Monday, reading off the names of victims of police brutality. As the names were read, students lay on the ground simulating the dead bodies of such victims.Justin Ho | Student Life

A student speaks into a megaphone at Tisch Commons on Monday, reading off the names of victims of police brutality. As the names were read, students lay on the ground simulating the dead bodies of such victims.

Response to the demonstration was mixed, with some students paying attention to the list of names being read while others ignored it as they ate lunch or passed through the Danforth University Center, stepping over or around the participants blocking walkways.

Some students appeared uncomfortable as they stared at the prone bodies of demonstrators. Junior Karisa Tavassoli, one of the participants who lay on the ground, said that eliciting discomfort was one of the demonstration’s goals.

Several students said they supported the goals of the protest but felt that its effect would quickly wear off.

Freshman Margaret Min said she thought that while the events in Ferguson were important to address, the dead-in was not the best way to do so.

“There are other ways to approach it than just having protests or marches. I think we need to focus more on gun control,” Min said. “Impacting people in…this specific environment is not necessarily the most effective because people are here to study, eat and go to class.”

Junior Max Lyons agreed that the motivations for the dead-in might be quickly forgotten.

“I sympathize. I agree with their message, but I’m pessimistic about their chances of having a real effect,” Lyons said.

Others, however, felt that it might have a more lasting impact.

“It was a powerful image,” sophomore Samantha Pitz said. “I noticed that there were multiple tours going on, so I think it shows that the Wash. U. community is very active and [the demonstration] will show prospective students that we are involved in the community and there isn’t necessarily a Wash. U. bubble.”

University administrators and staff did not appear to take any action to move or halt the protest, though participants say they had an alternate plan in the case of disruptions. A banner reading “Justice for All” and “Justice for Mike Brown” was removed from where it hung on the stairs above Tisch Commons shortly after the dead-in concluded.

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